Interviews

I found this quite informative and thought I’d share. I love reading interviews from writers and publishers. No matter what I think I know there is always something to be learned and people who are willing to share what they know.

This is an interview with Rick Wilks on children’s publishing (includes tips for authors seeking publication!) http://bit.ly/2yuYew

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did..

The Road to Publication

It’s been over fifteen years since my first short story was published in The Amethyst Review, a small literary magazine that has since ceased publication. Although I was thrilled to be finally seeing my work in print I didn’t share my accomplishment with very many people—mainly my family and a few close friends but that was about it. Yes, I was published but I sure didn’t feel like a writer. What if this was my one and only story? We are all supposed to have one story in us—right? Not only that, I still had a great deal to learn about writing and I knew it.

All I had in the beginning was an eagerness to communicate, to put words down on paper, hopefully words that would flow smoothly and eloquently and leave me with a sense of accomplishment. In the early years I was floundering about like so many would-be writers do, trying to find out who I really was on the page and searching for that voice that was uniquely mine. It was a slow process and it was a year or two later until I had another story accepted. But I hung in there either out of pure determination or sheer stubbornness. I was going to figure this out one way or another and, slowly but surely, more and more literary magazines began publishing my work. Some places were able to pay while others were not but I knew that with each publication I was growing as a writer. Did I receive many rejection slips along the way? You bet! And I came to see those rejections slips as most valuable because the closer I got to having my work accepted I went from receiving form rejection slips to ones with wonderful bits of advice and encouragement.

So when I received a phone call from the editor of Nimbus Publishing in April 2008 telling me how much she liked “Bitter, Sweet” I politely thanked her for all the wonderful things she was saying. Play it cool, I silently told myself, what if she’s calling to say, “I really like your story but unfortunately…….” So, I played it cool up until the point where she told me they wanted to publish it, after that I’m not quite sure. I laughed a lot, my legs felt like rubber and my mind was going off in a hundred different directions. She asked me a few questions about the setting and I’m sure I blurted out some sort of answer. Hopefully I made sense. I’m pretty sure I made sense. Oh well, if I didn’t make sense it hardly matters now.

The next few days I literally had my head in the clouds and believe me it took a while to come back down to earth. I can’t compare the difference between having a first short story accepted for publication to having a first novel because there really is no comparison. The short story came at the beginning of my career and served as encouragement but as valuable as that encouragement was it still wasn’t where I wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong it was pretty exciting to think that someone wanted to publish something I had written but the novel was my goal from the very beginning. It was where I someday wanted to be. Now that someday is here and it feels great!!!!!!

Choosing the Right Title

I sometimes find it a struggle to come up with a title for my work. Titles are not always that easy to come up with— good titles at least. The original title for my young adult novel was “Bittersweet” for several reasons that I can’t go into without giving away a key part to the story.  I hadn’t been able to come up with a title until the very end and then it struck me in one of those “eureka moments” you hear about all the time. Just like that I knew what the title was!!

But then things got changed the way they sometimes do in the publishing business. Let’s face it publishing is a business and, when it comes right down to it it’s about book sales and marketing and making money— but, hopefully, a whole lot more. It’s also about producing the best book possible but at the same time keeping the author happy.

So you can believe me when I say “Bittersweet” really was the right title for the book. As a matter of fact, my editor told me that everyone at Nimbus really loved the original title but they were a bit worried because there were a ton of books out there with Bittersweet as the title or with Bittersweet in the title.(Try doing a search  and see for yourself) But still, no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t come up with a title that fit the book better than “Bittersweet.” So as a compromise they came up with “Bitter, Sweet.”

But the final decision rested with me. Was I willing to go along with their suggestion? I thought about the title for a few days before I got back to my editor. To be honest I wasn’t sure what I thought about the comma. Now a comma is just a little bitty thing you might say but still it seemed to jump out at me as if it had a life of its own. Could I live with the comma? And if I couldn’t live with the comma could I live with a totally different title? These things weighed on my mind. It took me several days to be able to say yes I could live with the change and really mean it. For me it was more of a visual thing because realistically it’s pretty much the same title and I was actually surprised by the fact that it seemed like such a big deal at the time. I even tried writing it out to see what it would look like. It is a bit different from the original and as my editor pointed it out gives the book a really nice literary feel. After all, life is filled with compromise and to be perfectly honest, now that I’m used to it, I really like the title.

Book Launch

Although it is still a few months away I am going to mention that a time and place has just been set for the book launch. It’s to be held on October 25 at the community centre in East Dalhousie. Although there were other suggestions made, suggestions I was most grateful for, because let’s face it had I not been able to have it in the community I would have been looking for an alternative, the community centre in good old E. Dalhousie was my first choice.

Might I add  that I’m very pleased to be having the launch here because I happen to live in a pretty awesome little community. The people here have been extremely supportive of my work over the years and that support has meant so much. (Likely more than many of them even realize.)  As I told my publisher, I really couldn’t imagine having it any other place. Not only is the Dalhousie Road the setting for “Bitter, Sweet”—a fictitious Dalhousie Road of sixty years ago—but many of my family and friends live here, as well. It is the first time an event of this sort has been held in the community and, who knows, it may never happen again. So there you have it! I’m happy, my publisher’s happy, hopefully the good folks in the community will be happy with the news as well.

At this point I really have no expectations about the launch, for me it will be wonderful to celebrate the release of my very first novel right here in the community I’ve lived in my entire life.

Where Careers Really Start

People often ask when I started writing and the answer is all too clear. I was about ten years old. I had no inkling back then that this was a path I would continue on my entire life. All I knew was I felt this strong urge to write, to explore new ideas with words, to communicate in a way that I otherwise would not have been able to.

My very first attempt at writing prose came in the form of a play that I titled “The Talking Vegetable Garden.” I know what you’re thinking, catchy title, right? I have no earthly idea why I chose to bring a garden to life, to create dialogue for carrots, beans and other such eatable greenery. Perhaps I thought the world was in need of a disagreeable cabbage head, a smooth talking squash or a silly acting parsnip. Who is to say what thoughts were pulsing though this ten year old mind when I decided the world was in need of an imaginary garden where a potato ends up being the bad guy. Then again, why not!

So gathering up my script I recruited some of my classmates to take part. Giving up several of our noon hours seemed a reasonable price to pay for the accolades awaiting us somewhere down the road. Our debut performance was for our homeroom class and, might I add, Mrs. Pettigrew was so impressed with our performance that she allowed us to go to other classrooms that day and wow them with our innate acting abilities. We even got out of doing our school work. We were stars! What more proof did we need?

I can only remember one little boy who played the villain, a small potato with a big attitude. His mom had created him a costume that rivaled all the others. It was a simple costume made from a burlap potato sack and our elementary teachers thought he was adorable, even though he ended up chasing all the other vegetables away with a hatchet. (What a great storyline!!) For myself, I chose the part of narrator, a small part at the very beginning of the play which basically let the audience know just what the play was all about. I wasn’t interested in having a starring role I was more than content to sit in the sidelines for the remainder of the play as my words were spoken with such fervor by my classmates who understood better than anyone the perils that were awaiting some unsuspecting legume.

I’m sure when we marched into the grade six classroom where my sister sat in the front row she no doubt wanted to make a quick exit. (She was kind of like that growing up, “the shy one” as everyone called her.) For the life of me I can’t recall what her comments were, if any, about my cleverly written masterpiece although I’m sure she was well past the age where she dared to dream about veggies communicating in such an articulate fashion and no doubt thought it childish and silly. I can guarantee that she hasn’t given this nearly as much thought over the years as I and I’m even willing to bet she doesn’t even recall our debut performance whatsoever. Go figure!

So there you have—a little known story of where it all started. I only wish I could tell you I saved the script because other than what small bits of memories I have shared with you here there isn’t any other proof out there that this story even happened.

Author Questionaire

Early in June I was contacted by Nimbus’ marketing coordinator and given a questionnaire to fill out by the end of the month. No problem, I thought, I’ll have this whipped up in no time. The only thing is the end of the month was drawing near and I still had some questions to fill out. I was dragging my heals and I hate it when I do that.  Like many people, I have tendencies towards procrastination but I  can always be counted on to get the job done before any deadlines. So, yes my questionnaire was filled out and sent with several days  to spare. I guess that’s the important part. The questionnaire will basically gives them ideas  when it comes to promoting my book— who I know, were I’ve been published, that sort of thing.

So what’s the big deal you might ask? Simply that I  heard from the marketing coordinator today concerning the book launch for “Bitter, Sweet.”  I’m not ready yet to make any announcements yet but hopefully I’ll soon be able to let everyone know exactly where the book launch will be. There are several ideas on the table at this time.

All these little things help remind me that I’m not dreaming and that all the years I’ve worked toward this are finally paying off. For me, the greatest reward will come when I can actually hold a copy of “Bitter, Sweet” in my hands.

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. They are whispers of past events, and the imagining of things that could be. Sometimes they are smudged images of the truth, other times they seem to materialize from thin air.

A few years before writing “Bitter, Sweet,” I came across a newspaper article that caught my attention. I clipped it and put it in a folder for later reference. I imagined that one day this article would be the inspiration for a short story I would write but other than a certain event that had taken place I knew nothing else. Every so often I’d come across the article, read the headline, and file it away (always with the thought that something similar was going to happen in a future story.) I wasn’t worried; I had plenty of other things to work on.

Then one day Pru Burbidge whispered in my ear. I thought she had given me the first line for a short story. Turns out it was really the first line of chapter three, only I didn’t know that at the time. As I continued to write I began to see that somewhere further on these four kids were going to get into a whole lot of trouble and I even had the newspaper clipping as proof!!

At the time I wrote “Bitter, Sweet” I was working every day so I’d take along a notebook and pen. At break time I’d jot down what Pru had to say hoping that by the time I got home, and was finally ready to sit down and write, she would still be willing to tell me her story. I’m glad she didn’t bail out on me!! Her voice came so easily; it was as if she was patiently waiting for me to start writing her story.

Where do ideas come from? The ideas for writing fiction are born from tears, fears, joy and laughter. It is a scraping together and melding of the tiny scraps that makes up real life. It is inspired from the past, present and future– not only of our own but others’ as well. It is an assortment of random thoughts that spring from somewhere within us just begging to be heard.

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